COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University asked a judge on Friday to dismiss three federal lawsuits filed by former students alleging sexual misconduct by a team doctor.
The lawsuits claim that university officials turned a blind eye to rampant sexual abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss, who worked at Ohio State for 20 years until he retired in 1998. Strauss killed himself in 2005.
In legal motions, the university said the former students' claims are decades old and are thus barred by the statute of limitations. In addition, Ohio State said it has sovereign immunity.
Ohio State stressed it's not rejecting the students' claims outright.
"While the university is responding to the legal claims filed against it, as it must, Ohio State's motions to dismiss are not directed towards plaintiffs' claims of injury," lawyer Michael Carpenter said in a statement. "As stated in the motions to dismiss, 'Ohio State is not ignoring or being dismissive of plaintiffs' factual allegations.'"
Jack Landskroner, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said Ohio State is wrong on the statute of limitations, saying the clock did not begin ticking on the students' claims until April. He called Ohio State's position an attempt to "hide behind a technicality" and silence accusers.
"Survivors should not be deterred from coming forward," he said. "That's what OSU wants by filing this motion."
A law firm hired by the university has been conducting an investigation into allegations that Strauss groped scores of male athletes and other students. To date, about 150 people have come forward to provide firsthand accounts of sexual misconduct by Strauss.
The allegations date from 1979 to 1997 and involve male athletes from at least 16 sports, plus Strauss' work at the student health center and his off-campus medical office. Investigators also are reviewing whether university officials properly responded to any concerns raised about Strauss during his tenure, and whether Strauss examined high school students.